Sea Slug Chemical Blast Deters Lobster Predators

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"Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic. I really did not expect to see it have any effect on its own, I figured it would need to be combined with other compounds to create such a dramatic reaction," Aggio said.

The lobsters also quickly spit out opaline-laced shrimp.

The research appeared online recently in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

No Silver Bullet

"It is surprising how many compounds the sea hares use," said chemical biologist Richard Zimmer at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"We kind of expected to see a silver bullet, a single compound that has a powerful defensive effect, but it is quickly becoming clear that there are a number of bullets being used in sea hare ink," he said.

Mark Hay is a marine ecologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

"People have assumed for a long while that [sea hares] have been eating things with toxins in them, collecting the toxins in their bodies, and then spewing them out," Hay said.

(Read: "Toxic Frogs Get Their Poison From Mites" [May 14, 2007].)

"Obviously, this research is showing that there is a lot more than that going on."

The next step will be to evaluate if other predators respond to these compounds in the same way, Hay added.

"It is quite possible that sea hares evolved different chemical defenses to deal with different predators like fish and crabs, and that combining these defenses provides even greater protection for the sea hares."

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